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UK PM announces new China education deal

British prime minister Theresa May has announced new educational links with China in an agreement that will increase the number of teacher exchange programs and will launch a campaign to promote English proficiency in China.

May made the comments in Wuhan. She also held talks with Chinese PM Li Keqiang in Beijing. Photo: Flickr - Raul Mee (EU2017EE)

140 primary school teachers in England will be able to train in China under the UK-China Maths Teacher Exchange

“The close ties between the UK and China are reflected in our relationship on education,” Theresa May said. “More than 150,000 Chinese students study at the UK’s world-leading institutions and make a significant contribution to our academic life.”

“The agreements we have signed today will build on that and enable more children and more young people than ever to share their ideas about our two great nations,” May added.

“This partnership will play a crucial role in teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy”

The PM launched what she referred to as a “new ‘English is GREAT’ campaign”, which will aim to promote proficiency in English for the 300 million people in China learning English.

Although the ‘English is GREAT’ campaign is far from new itself, a spokesperson for the British Council said May was referring to the specific on-the-ground activity in China.

The program hopes to provide significant commercial opportunities for the UK by opening up a market worth over $2 billion a year.

“By teaching children to speak our languages we will ensure that our Golden Era of cooperation will endure for generations to come,” May added.

The program will be in the same vein as the UK-Mandarin Excellence Program, launched in 2016, which aims to have 5000 secondary school pupils in the UK fluent in Mandarin by 2020.

“The close ties between the UK and China are reflected in our relationship on education”

The UK’s biggest childcare provider, Busy Bees, will open 20 new nurseries across China with its Chinese stakeholder, Oriental Cambridge Education Group, in a deal believed to be worth £75m.

140 primary school teachers in England will be able to train in China under the UK-China Maths Teacher Exchange primary school program, which will be extended for a further two years to 2020. Chinese teachers will likewise be able visit England for training for two weeks.

The commitment aims to take the total number of English schools benefitting from the East-Asian style maths Teaching for Mastery program to 11,000 by 2023.

The nations have also signed an agreement to facilitate joint training of pre-school staff and improve information-sharing on vocational education by way of more study exchanges.

Education secretary, Damian Hinds, said that the partnership is vital to benefit pupils in both countries.

Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, so this partnership will play a crucial role in teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy,” he said, adding, “by opening up these opportunities to more young people, we can help to build a Britain that is fit for the future.”

The government says that the deals will total more than £550m and will create 800 jobs in the UK.

Elsewhere in UK politics, Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, asked parliament and the government if PM May’s policies, such as including international students in the immigration figures, are “a touch careless”, as they risk “billions of pounds that could have been available to our schools and hospitals”. Zeichner referred to HEPI and Kaplan’s recent report into the economic value of international students in the UK.

Speaking on behalf on the government, David Liddington MP retorted: “what the facts actually say is that we are the second most popular destination in the world for students… So I would argue that contrary to what he alleges, we are doing a good job in attracting international students”.

However, recent stats released by HESA show a “stagnation” in the number of international students to the UK. This point was not addressed by the government in this sitting.

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